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Is there a UK practice strike this weekend? The whole lot you might want to know

Rail passengers in Britain are enduring the longest and most damaging collection of strikes for the reason that Eighties.

The bitter dispute between the rail unions, Network Rail and the practice operators is about to enter its seventh month – with deliberate disruption unmatched this century set for earlier than Christmas and after New Year.

Members of the RMT union working for Network Rail and 14 train operators plan to walk out for four 48-hour strikes straddling the festive season.

The dates are 13-14 and 16-17 December, and 3-4 and 6-7 January. Between the pre-Christmas and post-New Year strikes, ie from 18 December to 2 January, an additional time ban can be in place.

If the stoppage goes forward it’ll represent the most important sustained industrial motion on the railways since 1989.

So far this 12 months the RMT has known as 11 days of nationwide strikes. In October three days of walk-outs had been known as off at quick discover, however widespread disruption was nonetheless felt over the course of every week.

In addition practice drivers working for round a dozen rail companies – together with intercity giants Avanti West Coast, GWR and LNER – have staged 5 days of nationwide motion.

Regionally, a spread of commercial motion from additional time bans to native walk-outs are inflicting additional disruption.

What are the strikes about?

There are a number of disputes involving many employers:

  • Network Rail – the infrastructure supplier, working the tracks, signalling and a few giant stations
  • Fourteen practice operators, who’re contracted by the Department for Transport (DfT) to run specified schedules.

Four unions are concerned:

  • RMT, the primary rail union
  • Aslef, representing practice drivers
  • Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), the union for white-collar employees within the transport trade
  • Unite, representing some grades in some practice operators

But key components are widespread to all of the disputes:

  • Pay, which the unions say ought to have in mind the present excessive inflation
  • Jobs, and specifically the prospect of obligatory redundancies
  • Working situations – with the unions decided to extract a premium from any productiveness enhancements, however the employers saying any pay rise is contingent on modernisation

In addition, the RMT says members are “striking against proposed cuts that would make the railways permanently inaccessible for many disabled and vulnerable passengers”.

When is the following nationwide strike?

On Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 Decemeber members of the RMT union will stroll out at Network Rail and 14 practice operators. The motion can be repeated on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 December.

For 4 days of stoppages, the union intends to trigger disruption over a complete week – which might usually be one of many busiest of the 12 months for rail journey.

Which practice operators are concerned?

Six of them are primarily intercity operators:

  • Avanti West Coast*
  • CrossCountry*
  • East Midlands Railway*
  • Great Western Railway*
  • LNER*
  • TransPennine Express*

The remaining eight are primarily regional operators:

  • C2C
  • Chiltern*
  • Greater Anglia*
  • GTR (together with Southern, Great Northern and Thameslink)
  • Northern*
  • Southeastern*
  • South Western Railway
  • West Midlands Trains*

Those marked with an asterisk are additionally concerned in disputes with the practice drivers’ union, Aslef.

How dangerous will the disruption be?

The results of those strikes is now effectively established. The walk-out by round 5,000 Network Rail signallers means half the rail community can be closed, with a much-reduced service on the rest of traces.

Non-union members will allow a skeleton service to run between 7.30am and 6.30pm, primarily on key intercity traces linking London with Brighton, Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Edinburgh, plus suburban traces round London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and southern Scotland.

Will it have an effect on different days?

Yes. In addition to the chosen dates the stoppage will trigger minor disruption on the day earlier than however main issues on the times after.

It might be that “strike schedules” will apply on Thursday 15 December, as a result of RMT members will stroll out for one more 48 hours on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 December – with the impression lasting into Sunday 18 December.

Similarly within the New Year, some trains can be cancelled on Monday 2 January the day earlier than the strikes resume. Thursday 5 January will see critical disruption, and schedules can be tousled on Sunday 8 January, making it one other full week of uncertainty for the traveller.

What do the warring sides say?

Mick Lynch, basic secretary of the RMT union, says: “This latest round of strikes will show how important our members are to the running of this country and will send a clear message that we want a good deal on job security, pay and conditions for our people.

“We have been reasonable, but it is impossible to find a negotiated settlement when the dead hand of government is presiding over these talks.”

He has accused the transport secretary, Mark Harper, of blocking a proposed settlement. The Department for Transport (DfT) rejects this.

A DfT spokesperson mentioned: “With our railways remaining in desperate need of reform, we once again urge unions to call off damaging strike action and work with employers to agree a way forward that is fair for taxpayers, passengers and workers alike.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) has studiously sought to distance itself from the fierce negotiations between Network Rail, the practice operators and the unions.

Yet with the overwhelming majority of trains specified by ministers and underwritten with billions of kilos of taxpayers’ money, the eventual settlement should be signed off by the Treasury.

Mick Whelan, basic secretary of Aslef, will meet Mr Harper on the DfT on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, representing practice operators, mentioned: “For the first time in months we can see the outline of a credible deal.

“Further strikes, especially in the run up to Christmas, will disrupt the first normal festive season our passengers have been able to look forward to since the Covid pandemic, taking even more money out of the pockets of railway staff, and will cause huge damage to the hospitality and retail sectors dependent on this time of the year for their businesses. We owe it to them to stay round the table.

“Industrial action has already cost the industry millions in lost revenue, is stalling its post-pandemic recovery, and threatening its long-term sustainability.”

Jake Kelly, Network Rail’s director of operations, mentioned: “The RMT is going to inflict on our country, our passengers and our industry an unprecedented and sustained period of rail disruption across the entire festive period that will have a massive impact on businesses and our economy.

“The rail industry is already well advanced in its planning and will do all it can to run as many services as it can across the Christmas and New Year period. But passengers need to be prepared for weeks of disruption as a result of the RMT’s chosen course of action.”

What different disruption is deliberate?

Local industrial disputes, a desire to not work additional time and what the practice operators say are increased than traditional ranges of employees illness are inflicting widespread disruption.

Aslef has withdrawn all non-contractual additional time at LNER on the East Coast principal line. The union’s basic secretary accuses the state-run agency of exhibiting “a complete disregard for the agreements which shape our members’ working lives”.

But Warrick Dent, LNER’s security and operations director, says: “We are confident that our contingency plans will keep disruption to LNER services to a minimum.”

On East Midlands Railway (EMR), members of the Unite union will take strike motion on Friday 2, Saturday 3, Friday 23 and Saturday 24 December.

The practice operator warns: “We will operate significantly fewer services that usual on these days, and on some EMR Regional routes no services at all.

“EMR are unable to run any train services to/from Lincoln for the Christmas Market on either Friday 2 or Saturday 3 December.”

On the primary intercity routes from Sheffield by way of Derby and from Nottingham to Leicester and London, one practice will run every hour between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

RMT members working for Avanti West Coast will stroll out on Sunday 11 and Monday 12 December, instantly earlier than the following spherical of nationwide strikes.

The practice operators says: “Customers should expect our timetable and operating hours to be reduced significantly, and note that services that do run are expected to be busy.

“We will announce revised timetables as soon as possible.”

Avanti West Coast and TransPennine Express are each working considerably diminished schedules till 10 December, blaming a drop in practice crew additional time and “higher-than-normal sickness levels” respectively.

I’ve a ticket booked for a strike day. What are my choices?

Passengers with advance, off-peak or anytime tickets affected by the strikes can typically use their ticket for journey on days both facet of the strike days.

Alternatively they’ll search a refund.

But be cautious about spending on occasions or accommodations that can require you to journey by practice. While you’ll get your a refund on rail tickets when trains are cancelled, “consequential losses” won’t be coated. So non-refundable spending can be misplaced when you can’t make the journey.

Are future strikes possible – and when will we hear about them?

Mick Lynch, basic secretary of the RMT union, says: “This union is determined to continue with this campaign until the employers understand that they need to respond to our members’ aspirations on job security, pay and working conditions.”

His union says that the common member earns £31,000 and has not had a pay rise in three years.

Unions should give 14 days discover of a strike, and often announce them near this deadline. When a sequence of strikes is named, as on 5-7-9 November, they’re introduced in a single go.

Why isn’t there a steady strike of the sort we now have seen prior to now?

Rail unions can impression virtually an entire week by stopping work for 3 days – inflicting most disruption for minimal lack of wages.

Are any elements of the UK unaffected by these rail strikes?

Yes, to date railways in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Wight have prevented all industrial motion.

Where will this all finish?

It may take months. Rail employees inform me they really feel undervalued and that stopping work is the one solution to obtain a good settlement.

But ticket income for the railway has slumped since Covid, and the employers say they need to stability the books – with pay rises contingent on modernising and chopping prices.

Meanwhile passengers are caught in the midst of an apparently intractable dispute, going through one other day of wrecked journey plans, whereas the taxpayer picks up the invoice for the monetary injury the strike will trigger.

At a time when the railway desperately wants to draw new passengers, confidence in practice journey is at an all-time low.

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